Christine Young

I am a writer and avid reader of romances particularly historical romances. Please join me on my journey through time

CHRISTINE PRESENTS ~ An Unfolding Trap by Jo A. Hiestand

Please welcome Jo A. Hiestand author of An Unfolding Trap

Jo A Hiestand will be awarding a $25 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour, and a silver Celtic design pendant on a silver necklace and a CD of the song featured in the book – international shipping to a randomly drawn host.



An Unfolding Trap

by Jo A. Hiestand


GENRE: British mystery



  1. What or who inspired you to start writing?

The Golden Age mystery writer Ngaio Marsh was (and still is) my idol. Her writing is beautiful, her characters well drawn and full of detail, her plots ingenious. I’d read all her books and wanted to create something similar using present day settings. That, coupled with my childhood immersed in “moody” books such as Jane Eyre, Jamaica Inn, Rebecca, and Sherlock Holmes’ foggy London, whispered of such mysterious places and brilliant stories that I had to try to create my own.


  1. How did you come up with ideas for your books?

Story ideas for the McLaren
 series usually come from an event or place in the British countryside. For AN UNFOLDING TRAP, I’d recently been to Edinburgh, Scotland, and knew parts of the countryside fairly well. I’d toured Edinburgh’s “medieval underground city” of The Real Mary King’s Close and was overwhelmed by the size, history and people who lived underground. I thought it was one of the spookiest, most dramatic and heart-breaking places I’d ever seen. That, coupled with the snowy landscape of Glencoe, begged to be used in a book. This was in 2010. AN UNFOLDING TRAP has obviously come a bit later, but if I hadn’t gone to Edinburgh in December 2010 I doubt if the book would’ve been written.
What expertise did you bring to your writing?

I don’t know if it’s expertise, but I lived in England for a year, as well as vacationed there many times. I know parts of it and Scotland quite well, so I use those places in my books. I believe the scenes ring true. My BA degree is in English and I graduated with departmental honors, so I assume I can write fairly well.


  1. What would you want your readers to know about you that might not be in your bio?

At one time I considered opening a tearoom. I had the décor all planned, the name chosen, and even what’d be on the menu. But my energy level wasn’t up to actually instigating my big idea!


  1. As far as your writing goes, what are your future plans?

I’d like to say “sign a contract for a television series produced by the BBC”, but they haven’t approached me! Seriously, right now I’m focused on this year’s concert of the music written for ARRESTED FLIGHT, my eighth McLaren book. Each of them features a song that’s integral to the victim or to McLaren, thus becoming important to the plot. These songs are recorded by local St. Louis musicians and available on single-song CDs. The music ranges from folk, blues and torch, to a baroque aria and classic jazz instrumental. My friend and nationally known composer Robert Chamberlin has written a two-piano piece, composed of four movements, which illustrates scenes and characters in the book, similar to Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. The world premier of the piece will be in November this year (I can hardly wait!). The book will be out in time for the concert, so it’d be super if people loved the music enough to want to read the book that goes with it. I haven’t thought beyond that.


  1. If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?

Without a second thought, I’d be McLaren. He tends to be cynical…or at least reserved in some of his opinions…which I am. He’s a bit reckless and impulsive, leaping into a situation before thinking of what could happen to him. I’m not really like that; I tend to overthink and stew about things, so I wish I had a bit more of McLaren’s spontaneity. Being male, he can go places women usually can’t; he has the strength I also lack. He’s the type of person I wish I were.


  1. If you were the casting director for the film version of your novel, who would play your leading roles?

This is a tough question. There are so many great actors, but physical appearances, of course, are also essential to fulfill the characters’ images in readers’ minds. My protagonist, Michael McLaren, would be played by either Jason Statham or Robert Kazinsky (no real preference); his sidekick, Jamie, definitely would be Douglas Henshall (I think he was born to be Jamie!); McLaren’s nemesis has to be Paul Venables (though Patrick Malahide would have been my choice about thirty years ago, but I wasn’t writing yet!); Amanda Redman would play the part of bed-and-breakfast owner Jean MacNab; Iain Glen would be Neill, McLaren’s grandfather; Iain Glen is Fowler Ritchie, with Alun Armstrong as Lanny Clack. Director choice is between Brendan Maher and Susanna White.


  1. Do you belong to a critique group? If so how does this help or hinder your writing?

I tried one once and had the worst experience. There was no enforcement of rules (if there were any). We were told to bring two pages to read, and some people brought five or ten pages and hogged the entire time. People made fun of others’ writing and verbally tore them apart. I left after two sessions. Since then I’ve been hesitant about finding another group. If I have to sound out something, I talk to one of my author friends, or bend another friend’s ear. I think their gut feelings are as good as any collection of other writers. After all, writing is subjective. And it’s good to have non-writers’ reactions; non-writers also read books!


  1. When did you first decide to submit your work? Please tell us what or who encouraged you to take this big step.

Hoping I don’t sound hokey, I’d say it was my mother who nudged me forward. I’d talked about “the mystery I’m going to write” all through high school, but I never started anything. Finally she challenged me to do it. Of course that novel was dreadful, but she kept after me to write another one, instilling the realization that writing, just like cooking or playing baseball or learning an instrument, gets better with practice. When she read my first Taylor & Graham novel she thought I should send it to a publisher to see what they thought of it. If she hadn’t pushed, I doubt I would’ve had the courage to do it.


  1. What is the best and worst advice you ever received? (regarding writing or publishing)

The best advice came from Shirley Kennett, a St. Louis-area published author. She read my first Taylor & Graham manuscript, told me to change one of the two male protagonists to a female, tell the story in first person instead of third person, and tell it from the female’s point of view. She also suggested I give her a female friend who’d act kind of like her confidant and diary. I didn’t want to do it at first, but with all the manuscript’s rejection slips staring me in the face, I finally followed through on Shirley’s suggestions. The first publisher I sent it to offered me a book contract. Thank you, Shirley.

Along with that best advice subject was a former boss who said the carols I’d written to celebrate Groundhog’s Day should be published. I wasn’t sure anyone but he, a handful of my friends, and I thought they were funny, or that there’d be a wide enough audience who’d want the little book, but he kept urging me to do it. I eventually acquiesced. To the basic thirteen carols collection I added food recipes and party decoration ideas, threw in some history about the origin of the day and some interesting facts about groundhogs, and published it on my own. CAROLS FOR GROUNDHOG’S DAY is one of my top selling books, believe it or don’t. Thank you, Mark.

The worse advice I’ve received was not to write a second series – the idea being my energy would weaken if split between two sets of stories. If I had taken that advice, McLaren wouldn’t have entered the world, those wonderful CDs of music wouldn’t exist, and I’d not have met a superb group of musicians, who have become my friends. Sometimes ya just gotta go with yer gut feelin’, despite contrary opinion.


  1. Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I don’t outline, but do have what I call my Notes Page. On that I jot down paragraphs, ideas, and bulleted lists—all in order of the story. These are the main points, actions and scenes that I need to include. If a snatch of dialogue occurs to me, I’ll put that down, too. I have my notes document file open on the right side of my computer monitor screen; the actual manuscript is on the left side. That allows me to consult my notes as I write to make sure I’m including everything I want to. On the notes page I also have info of places, photos of the area, and songs that should go into the story. For instance, in AN UNFOLDING TRAP, my notes page included snaps of Edinburgh and a street map; some notes on WWII battles in the Pacific; a map of Balquhidder, Loch Voil, the Braes, and Loch Doine; information regarding ingredients of Scottish beers, varieties and names; December temperatures and snowfall amounts; moonrise and sunrise times; a few photos of the Trossachs, Loch Lomond, Edinburgh, and The Boar’s Rock in Balquhidder. I like to think it all out, including what will be revealed in each chapter, and then I write.


  1. Do you have any hobbies and does the knowledge you’ve gained from these carry over into your characters or the plot of your books?

My main hobby is music, whether listening to it or performing it. I gave McLaren that hobby, too, even down to him playing in a folk singing group, which I did for a few years. He talks about songs and I show him tuning his 12-string guitar. McLaren’s passionate about nature and about preserving the land, which also derives from me. I think pouring some of yourself into your characters gives your writing authority and, therefore, believability. If tuning a guitar is described in detail, for instance, the reader knows the author’s done this and learns to trust the author. This also establishes a bond between them. Plus, it’s a lot easier to write about something you know than to stop every other sentence to research something and hope your writing sounds authentic! I also give McLaren my love of cooking and baking, telling how he cooks something as well as what he’s cooking. All these little additions round him out and make him a little more real to us. And even though I love to do crewel embroidery, that’s one thing McLaren won’t do!


  1. Do you have an all time favorite book?

What a difficult question to answer… The first one that comes to my mind is actually a tie of three books: Ngaio Marsh’s Scales of Justice, Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time, and Charles Nicholl’s The Reckoning. If I went to the classics, I’d also include Charles Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby. So many good books!


  1. Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your book?

Actually, I’m nearly finished with the eighth McLaren mystery. It’s called ARRESTED FLIGHT and takes place in Cumbria, England instead of Derbyshire. McLaren’s on a short vacation and gets involved in investigating the murder of teenager Bradley Allard. There are scenes at Uther Pendragon’s castle, a prehistoric stone circle, the military training range of Warcop (yes, those three places really exist), and the village (fictitious in the book but based on a real village. I just changed the name because I didn’t think they’d like two murders occurring on their doorsteps!). The church sexton, nicknamed Barmy Barry, is one crumpet short of a tea party. He sees fairies at the castle as well as thinks Pendragon is about to come back. Add to that strange lights in the castle tower at night, a physical assault on the vicar, and Barry’s insistence there’s a ghost in the forest… What’s going on in the village, and who killed Bradley? You’ll have to read the book to find out!


  1. Who are your favorite actor and actress?

It depends on the era. In the 1940s it’s Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper. Always seems odd to me because Gary Cooper is so quiet and reserved, and Barbara Stanwyck has such powerful, emotional scenes at times. But they’re both strong and are by favorites. If you’re talking about current people, I’d have to name Mark Rylance, Patrick Malahide, Alun Armstrong, and Anna Maxwell Martin as topping my list, but I have many second-place choices.


  1. Can you tell us a little about the black moment in your book?

AN UNFOLDING TRAP opens with McLaren getting an invitation from his grandfather, who lives near Edinburgh (McLaren lives in Derbyshire, England). The invitation is to heal the rift that’s existed between the grandfather and McLaren ever since McLaren was a baby. McLaren travels up there, goes to see his grandfather, but the older man is furious at seeing McLaren; there’s no warm welcome and the grandfather denies sending for McLaren.

A particularly black moment occurs when McLaren goes to the ancestral village of Balquhidder. He’s looking around the area and is knocked out. He wakes up at night on the snow-covered moor, left to freeze to death. He has no idea who wants him dead, how he got on the moor, where he is, or how to get back to Balquhidder. It’s a very tense scene, with life-threatening possibilities.


  1. Can you tell us a little bit about what it is like to write a series?

I enjoy it immensely. I’m crazy about McLaren and his pal, Jamie. I believe they’re interesting characters and I’d like to count them both as friends if they were real. Since I like them so much, I can’t wait to think up new cases for them and watch how they figure out whodunit. Through nine books, now, I’ve come to know them both very well, so when I’m considering a situation or plot, I can picture them in it–or not! Their personalities dictate where the story will take place, how they’ll treat the other characters, and how they will respond to situations. It’s almost like listening and watching them react to things, just writing it down as I see it unfolding in my head. They don’t control the plot, though; I have a firm grip on that. But they stubbornly stay true to their morals and personalities. I have the luxury of a series to watch their personalities change and they grow in many directions. That’s a wonderful thing about a series, seeing them as “human beings” develop as other people and events affect them. I also enjoy building on something that happened a book or two previous and refer to it or have it mean something to them in the current book. Writing about McLaren and Jamie is like being with a long-time friend. I feel comfortable with them and get the warmth of camaraderie from them. Which means I can’t wait to get up each morning and see what they’re up to next.


  1. Anything else you might want to add?

Once I dined with Omar Sharif. Of course, there were ninety-nine other people dining with us. It was at the end of a bridge tournament in Manchester, England. But if you only read the first sentence it sounds romantic!


Thanks for the interview, Christine! Hope to talk with you again some time. Jo



Since his infancy, Michael McLaren has been the target of his paternal grandfather’s anger. So when the patriarch sends an invitation to heal the rift, McLaren travels to Scotland, eager to meet and finally end the feud. But the welcome never happens. If Grandfather hadn’t invited him, who had?  And why?
In Edinburgh, a man standing beside McLaren in a bus queue is killed in a hit-and-run accident. After an attack leaves McLaren for dead on a wintry moor, he’s convinced someone from his past is trying to murder him.
As McLaren trails the hit-and-run driver from the medieval ‘underground city’ of Edinburgh to the Boar’s Rock the MacLaren Clan’s ancestral meeting place the assaults intensify, and he’s plunged into a very personal hunt for a World War II treasure. The puzzle is fascinating; he just has to stay alive to solve it.







Ross leaned forward, closing the distance between them. “You’re sure you didn’t get angry when you found him this afternoon?”


“Of course I got angry! Who the hell wouldn’t? The bloody git killed a man, frightened a dozen others who were there, kidnapped Miss Skene, held her hostage⎯” McLaren stopped before saying Lanny had knocked him on the head and left him for dead in the marshland along the loch, or that he was a threat to Neill McLaren. He took a deep breath. “But I didn’t kill him. I tied him up so he wouldn’t escape, then phoned you when I could.”


“An hour later.” The voice was flat, unimpressed.


“Yes. An hour later. Maybe ninety minutes. I didn’t write down the time, but I phoned here, in the village.”


“Why wait so long to ring us?”


“Pardon?” The suspicion that things were turning horribly wrong whispered to McLaren.


“Why didn’t you phone right then? Did you want to put some space between you and the killing so you could establish an alibi?”






AUTHOR Bio and Links:


A month-long trip to England during her college years introduced Jo to the joys of Things British. Since then, she has been lured back nearly a dozen times, and lived there during her professional folk singing stint. This intimate knowledge of Britain forms the backbone of both the Taylor & Graham mysteries and the McLaren cold case mystery series.


Jo’s insistence for accuracy, from police methods and location layout to the general feel of the area, has driven her innumerable times to Derbyshire for research. These explorations and conferences with police friends provide the detail filling the books.


In 1999 Jo returned to Webster University to major in English. She graduated in 2001 with a BA degree and departmental honors. Her cat Tennyson shares her St. Louis home




Amazon Author Page:






Jo A Hiestand will be awarding a $25 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour, and a silver Celtic design pendant on a silver necklace and a CD of the song featured in the book – international shipping to a randomly drawn host.



20 comments on “CHRISTINE PRESENTS ~ An Unfolding Trap by Jo A. Hiestand

  1. Goddess Fish Promotions
    March 8, 2016

    Thanks for hosting!

  2. Jo Hiestand
    March 8, 2016

    Thank you for hosting me today, Christine!

  3. Kathy Allen
    March 8, 2016

    Jo, I have always said you would make such a good writing teacher, especially because of your development of characters. Since it is always so interesting to me how all of this happens, I love the questions and answers here. Have you ever taught writing or wanted to?

    • Jo Hiestand
      March 8, 2016

      I do teach writing with another mystery author, P.A. Defoe. We teach at our local community college, so it’s just a 4-hour course, given once during the semester. We’ve been doing this for many many years. I can’t believe how I enjoy it, and I often wonder if the students get as much from our course.

  4. Sorchia D
    March 8, 2016

    Best of luck with the McLaren series–and all the other stuff you are writing. I’m curious about your music hobby. What instruments do you play and how did you get started?

    • Jo Hiestand
      March 8, 2016

      Thanks, Sorchia. I started playing piano when I was in grade school. In my high school years I was being groomed as a concert pianist (my teacher was a former concert pianist). I fell in love with the harpsichord and virginal, and stopped the piano lessons. My dad built me a harpsichord (a French double-manual) and I took harpsichord lessons from Carl Smith, who is a magnificent performer. I took private lessons in writing continuo from music professor/composer Robert Chamberlin. I bought my virginal from the late Peter Tkach, and through all that fell in love with early music. Of course, while all this was going on, the folk music craze was sweeping the US and I got involved with that, eventually forming and performing in a 6-person folk singing group, The Six Pack. That’s all gone by the wayside, but I still play my guitar and I still sing for myself and I still listen to CDs and go to the occasional concert.

      • Sorchia D
        March 10, 2016

        That is really interesting. Thanks. It’s also interesting that you’ve extended your interest in music to complement your writing. I think that is a stroke of genius! Both as a marketing strategy and as a way to just combine things you love!

  5. achristay
    March 8, 2016

    Welcome to my blog. I hope you have a great tour.

  6. Rita Wray
    March 8, 2016

    I liked the interview.

    • Jo Hiestand
      March 8, 2016

      I’m glad, Rita. Thanks for logging on this morning.

  7. nikolina84
    March 8, 2016

    Happy to be a part of this tour, thank you for sharing!

    • Jo Hiestand
      March 8, 2016

      I’m happy you ARE part of the tour! 😉 Thanks so much.

  8. Victoria
    March 8, 2016

    Great interview, I really enjoyed reading your responses. I’m with you on actors/actresses… definitely depends on the era! 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    • Jo Hiestand
      March 8, 2016

      Hi, Victoria. Funny that I can visualize actors from different decades in my characters’ roles. But I guess that’s good! Thanks for logging on.

  9. Jo Hiestand
    March 8, 2016

    Thank you for hosting me today, Christine. It was a lot of fun!

  10. Jo Hiestand
    March 8, 2016

    And another thank you to everyone who commented today — I appreciate it. And good luck with the raffle drawing!

  11. Mai Tran
    March 9, 2016

    How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

  12. Ree Dee
    March 9, 2016

    I really enjoyed the interview. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Becky
    March 14, 2016

    Thanks for sharing this giveaway.

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